heroes

two

I am not an alarmist.

Okay, I sort of am.

One time, I thought I was getting a strange skin growth on my face. Until I wiped it away. It was called peanut butter. Another time, I knew I was diseased when all of my fingernails suddenly turned orange. I forgot that I was experimenting with self-tanning lotion. (By the way, I also thought my car was diseased when the leather driver’s seat started to stain in strange spots.)

In 2013, when my friend Nancy told me she was feeling bloated and it wouldn’t go away, we  joked about gas like eight year-olds teenage boys two mature and sophisticated women. She subsequently went to get her colon checked. It was healthy.

It turned out that she had a late-stage ovarian tumor that had started to secrete fluid into her abdomen. She fought hard to kick cancer’s ass and gave it a tremendous fight, but a year and a half later, she was gone.

She was 52 years old.

My friend S recently told me she had been feeling bloated.

Alarm bells blared in my ears. I didn’t want to hear them. I didn’t want to share them with her. But I did because I told myself that if any woman ever used the word “bloated” in a conversation, I would inquire further and gently ask them to consider seeing their gynecologist. Many symptoms of ovarian cancer are disguised as common symptoms that we all experience.

S was one up on me. She had already seen her gynecologist and everything appeared fine. Phew. Stupid alarmist. Why did you have to scare the crap out of me?

But as it turns out, all is not fine.

Ovarian cancer is nefarious. It slips quietly into a room and by the time you notice it, it has taken up most of that space. It’s greedy. It wants more. It wants to suffocate you from the inside out. And you can look for all sorts of reasons why it showed up in the first place, but one of those reasons could simply be, as scientists termed it: bad luck.

I love my female friends. They are my support system. And I have a hard time understanding why I would even have to consider giving them up. Why are they being attacked? While I’m at it: breast cancer, leave us alone, too. All cancers. Just go away.

Stuart Scott, an ESPN anchor and sportscaster, recently passed away from his battle with a rare form of appendix cancer. About six months before he passed, he said these heroic and inspiring words:

“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.”

My friend S is transcendently forgiving, full of grace, and tough as nails. She will be navigating her way with the kind of light that you need to see through those dark places.

They don’t call it the hero’s journey for nothing.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

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jane trains, mainly on the plain

…tall…strong…spring!…tall…strong…spring!…tall…strong…spring!…

This was my mantra today as I trained for a 12k that is three weeks away. I still cannot run many continuous miles, but I’ve made a commitment to try and increase what I can already do. This running business is literally and figuratively putting one foot in front of the other. That’s how I started – with small goals, kindness towards my more unathletic moments, and the desire to improve my health and strengthen my body. I want it to work for me for a long time.

I have always been an on-and-off exerciser. In October 2012, I started a new streak that has continued. Frankly, I’m surprised. And running has me particularly befuddled. I never thought I would begin running, let alone sign up for a 5k. I was thrilled and content with completing a handful of them. I had no interest in running a 10k. And then I ran one this year. Next? A friend told me that he wanted to run a 12k that crosses over the Golden Gate Bridge. Well, a 12k isn’t that much farther than a 10k. And across the GG Bridge? Awesome!

I have no interest in doing a half marathon. That’s nuts. Cuckoo.

Back to my morning run: At about mile seven, my helpful and cheerful mantra morphed into: tall…strong…dragggg…tall…deadlegs…#!@$#%*!!!…tall…who the hell invented running, anyways??!!

Never fear – I still love you, running. It’s just that, sometimes I hate you, too. I know you can handle my wildly fluctuating affection for you. Ah…lucky is the man who wins my heart.

p.s. If you noticed that I’ve been AWOL lately, I wish I could tell you that I was climbing Mt. Fuji, saving the universe from evil overlords, or inventing cures for all of our illnesses, but no, all of my words and creative energy went into a journaling course led by the bright, beautiful, rockin’ Susannah Conway. It was fantastic – like summer camp for introverts!

Grateful

Runners’ highs sure are unpredictable. I thought they were gifted to you after a run or maybe during some kind of physical peak, not right as you began running. The High hit me as soon as I stepped foot on the trail. It’s possible that I was feeling extra good. Or maybe it was the caffeine. No matter. The run had me feeling extremely grateful.

I love to run on the trail along the ocean. It’s probably hell on my knees, but I’m not a sprinter or a galloper, nor do I run the entire time, so I feel like I’m not punishing them too much. After I completed my first 10k on New Year’s day, I was grateful to have finished. I didn’t care where I placed or if I lost time to take photos of the course. It simply wasn’t enough for me to take mental pictures – I had to capture this:

New Year's Day - 10k

The view I have on my regular runs is spectacular. I get to see things like this:

Bathing Beauties

and this:

The View

I’m grateful to be able to see and experience all of the above. And not only with my eyes.

I’m grateful to have a voice that is growing stronger and am thankful that I know when not to use that voice (you should hear some of the things that go on in my head that luckily for you, I keep to myself).

I’m grateful for my health and for limbs that keep me going. Once castigated, my legs have told me, Don’t be ashamed of us anymore. Understood. My respect to you, you healthy burritos. And I say that with affection, not in a snarky way, per my usual self.

I’m also grateful for forums like this. For all of the Internet’s overindulgence and creepy-uncle aspects, it also opens up a world where people can connect in the best ways possible. It helps me grow and learn and discover. And in return, I hope I can extend that energy back out into the world.

As I mentioned in a post a year ago, I used to look at runners and think, “Really, now. Why?? Where are you even going?”

Where am I going?

Everywhere, with grateful intention go I…

The Enemy of All Enemies

In the past couple of weeks I’ve learned of a handful of people passing away. Most of them suddenly, unexpectedly, swiftly. One in particular was a 47 year-old woman I used to work with. Cancer took her life in eight short months.

Cancer is my sworn enemy. And as my enemy…Cancer, you can suck it.

In fact, you can suck it big time: My good friend N is battling ovarian cancer. She started out at stage 4 in April 2013. The prognosis of this disease at that stage would lay anyone low. After enduring a multitude of tests, drainings, 12 weekly sessions of chemo, surgery, and currently more chemo, N just received the results of her CA-125. This marker measures the concentration of ovarian cancer cells, normal being at 35 and under. SHE WAS AT 8.

I flipped my lid when she told me and I cursed to the high heavens in happiness. True to form, she thanked me for making her experience less lonely, less scary. Seriously? How lucky am I to have a sistah and friend like her?!? I told her that she gave me strength. For real.

For the time being, N will continue her chemo sessions because her oncologist told her that the cancer cells could simply be “sleeping”. Oh? Then blast those suckers, I say. So far, she is tolerating chemo very well, thank goodness. I wish I could be there to celebrate with her.

I think I’ll go for a walk and celebrate the fact that I can.

Good health and wellness to everyone out there.

Lions and Tigers and Thighs, Oh My

Ever since I got back from Hawaii, my legs and I have seen the light. These burritos ‘o mine are now wearing running shorts. It’s somewhat liberating to make visible something I had intentionally kept invisible in the past. To let myself be seen. As is.

When I had it – at least I thought I had it at some point – I should have flaunted it. I took my young, firm skin for granted. But I was much more shy back then. Now? Yes, I’m still an introvert at heart, but I don’t look too bad for my age, so part of me wants to flaunt whatever it is I have left while gravity is still my friend. I have ab muscles. I don’t know where they came from, and they might look a little like a wrinkly four-pack of King’s Hawaiian rolls during the rising process, but they’re there. I believe that they’re a product of my intense overthinking. After all, something good should come of overworking my brain in circles. Problem is, I might look good for 48 – we Asians hold together well – but not so good for 38. Get my drift?

[I can’t believe I just outed my real age. Oh, what the hell. I will display my age proudly. I just won’t display photos of it here on my blog. I may be crazy, but I’m not insane. Yet.]

See, I live in a small, coastal town. It doesn’t get warm enough to wear shorts very often, so people don’t see a lot of skin around here. Hawaii? No problem. Young skin, aging skin – what does it matter? Everyone looks like bronzed demi-gods over there. But here? People pull on their t-shirts, light wash jeans, sneakers, and their Patagonia jackets to go out on the town. They might even wear that outfit to the beach.

The sun is out and it is unusually warm. I am tempted to go for a run wearing less clothing than I ever have before. I want to feel free to do this. If I didn’t have to wear my glasses, I would absolutely wear sunglasses. That way, I could feel anonymous. I might mistake a fire hydrant for a dog, but if it makes me more brave, I will trade clear vision for shades. I’m sure I’ll be able to determine whether or not that object coming towards me is a car, right? Maybe I need a sacrificial running buddy.

Suddenly, I’m not so concerned about my thighs anymore.